Infectious diseases affect individuals differently, based on gender, age, and even race—and some, like the so-called “man flu” may appear to have more adverse effects on men than they do on their female counterparts.
In 2016, feminists on the Internet came up with the idea to mock men for men for reacting more poorly to the common cold and influenza than women. The diseases which affect both men and women in equal numbers appeared to force more adverse side effects in men who contracted them, and this was interpreted as attention-seeking behavior by feminists.
Viral researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London have made a discovery that may shine a light on why this is. According to scientists, certain virus are said to “go easy” on women so that they can be more easily passed on to children through pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
Meanwhile, men could be harder hit by the infection and suffer from more severe symptoms because men’s survival isn’t quite as necessary for the virus to thrive in populations.
“Viruses may be evolving to be less dangerous to women, looking to preserve the female population,” said researcher Francesco Ubeda to New Scientist. “The virus wants to be passed from mother to child, either through breastfeeding, or just through giving birth.“
Putting it like that, it almost sounds as if viruses are exhibiting sentient behavior for self-preservation, but viruses evolve not by complex design, but through adaptation. Viral strains that do not carry these properties do not survive long in the wild and go extinct following the destruction of their hosts or a host’s eventual development of immunity to the strain.
According to the scientist, men are more likely than women to die when infected by a number of common illnesses, including chickenpox and tuberculosis, which is 50 percent more lethal to men.
The difference in mortality rates between the sexes was attributed to a stronger immune system in women, but the new research suggests that the viruses themselves may be the cause.
Ubeda’s research collaborator Vincent Jansen said that the virus can tell men from women based on hormonal and other differences, but how virus can make these determinations remains to be discovered.
The scientist proposed that it could be possible to trick a virus into thinking that it is infecting a female, rather than male body, in order to alleviate symptoms in men.
The research may prompt feminists to think twice before they mock men for displaying severe symptoms, but society can only hope for so much.